Fri | Jul 3, 2020

High hope for troubled teens

Published:Sunday | October 27, 2013 | 12:00 AM
From left: Osric Forrest, director of School of Advanced Skills, Caribbean Maritime Institute; Jaipaul Powell, Kingston High School teacher; Renee Julian, programme coordinator; Joyce Samuels-Walters, career and development coordinator; Donette Brown, CMI public relations officer; Dr Fritz Pinnock, executive director, Caribbean Maritime Institute; and Corrine Richards, principal of Kingston High School.
Corrine Richards, principal of Kingston High School, with two of her students in the Caribbean Maritime Institute and Kingston High School Pre-College programme.
Seventeen-year-old Robert Wright, Caribbean Maritime and Kingston High School Pre-College student.
Caribbean Maritime and Kingston High School Pre-College students in the computer lab.-photos by Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer

Caribbean Maritime Institute joins forces with Kingston High School to save at-risk youngsters

Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator

Taking painful, slow, but deliberate steps to his class with the aid of crutches, 17-year-old Robert Wright had a determined sense of purpose.

In May of this year when a truck ran over his legs in an accident in Yallahs, St Thomas, Robert felt like his whole life was crushed with his legs.

Months of excruciating pain and wondering what his future would be like, if he would ever walk again and if he would ever achieve his dream of becoming an electrical engineer, plunged him into depression.

But the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI) and Kingston High School (KHS) Pre-College Programme walked into his life in the nick of time and gave him renewed hope.

"I always wanted to be an electrical engineer, because I find electricity fascinating, but after the accident I didn't know if I could get to do it again. I felt like I was going to be disabled for my whole life," Robert shared with The Sunday Gleaner.

Last Tuesday, still racked with pain and with a long way to go to recovery, the young man is now optimistic about his future, pursuing pre-engineering studies.

"Thanks to this programme, I can now work on that and still have a career in it. I just want to come and do the best that I can," he stated.

In fact, the career development pre-college programme has been a lifesaver for many of the Kingston High students, who hail from poor inner-city communities and face a number of challenges.

The programme, which began in September, integrates academics and technical skill training with the aim to take the students to a higher level of training, or work in that field.

With the option to do a one- or two-year training course, the 102 male and female students are spread across four areas of study: pre-port operations and logistics, pre-maritime, pre-engineering, and advanced skills training.

"We decided to design a programme that would provide some mobility for the students to get their interest going.

"That is how the pre-college concept came about, integrating academic training with technical training, specifically looking at the country's needs," noted Osric Forrest, director of the School of Advanced Skills, Caribbean Maritime Institute.

"For instance, we looked at the logistics hub and the Vision 2030, and created some pre-college options in the technical area for persons to pursue courses over two years.

"At the end of the programme, there is a clear pathway for further studies at CMI, any institution of choice, or to go directly in the field of work, so it opens up a lot of options for the students."


Since taking over as principal three years ago, Corrine Richards has sought to implement several initiatives to lift the bar at Kingston High.

Her transformational approach has led to higher academic performance, lifting the morale of the students.

"Once we crossed that hurdle and got the students to the performance level we wanted, our next concern was moving them to the next phase of their lives.

"What would they do after high school? What would their career path be? We thought it was important to guide them in that transition," said Richards.

She said the CMI/KHS pre-college programme was a deliberate collaboration, taking into consideration the skill sets Jamaica would need for its development.

Richards noted the importance of integrating academics with technical training to take the students to that necessary level.

"Our students need to be taken to the place where they understand that after high school they need to transition to higher learning, and I think that gap has not been adequately bridged by our education system," argued Richards.

"Our children must understand that life does not end after leaving high school. They must be so prepared so that they can transition to higher learning or be equipped to enter the workforce."

She added: "This collaboration is a major step. These are children from very poor environment and who, unfortunately, many expected very little of.

"To many of them, the thought of finishing high school was a fleeting dream, and the thought of moving on to a tertiary institution was an impossible dream. They now have the opportunity to achieve something great."

Joyce Samuels-Walters, career and development coordinator at the school, said the response from the students is overwhelming.

"We have about 30 boys in the programme who were just on the street just wasting their lives. You should see them now, so reformed, because they have a purpose for their lives, they are so excited. They have finally realised that something else actually exists," stated Samuels-Walters.

"They are so focused and motivated. It has lifted their standards. The whole notion of a pre-college fills them with such great pride."

The students fully agreed.

"This programme has given me the opportunity to have a better skill. It has opened up a lot of doors for me. I am willing to put out the work to get where I want to go," stated Everton Barnett, 17, who is studying engineering.

Alex Levers, 18, was once determined to pursue a career as an entertainer. Not one who would settle down, Alex got caught up in the wrong things and was expelled from Kingston High.

Thanks to the programme, he has finally found a purpose for his life and a reason to settle down.

"Music was the only future plan I had, but I got in this programme and it inspire me to a lot of things, it inspire me to a great career, so I just want to pursue that career.

"Me still love music, but now I have a career I want to pursue," stated the young man who is pursuing studies in port operations and logistics.


The pre-college programme also incorporates disciplinary training, equipping the students with not just the skills but the proper deportment to perform in the work world.

"A programme as this also serves to lift the level of discipline and reorient our young people to know that they need to look beyond the traditional careers," noted Dr Fritz Pinnock, executive director of Caribbean Maritime Institute.

"There are new emerging careers that they can excel in, which are great and high-income earners. We need to reorient our entire educational landscape in how students approach their future development. This is an excellent collaboration, showing how we can bridge that gap."

Caribbean Maritime Institute's pre-college programme is done on its main campus in the Corporate Area, Irwin High School, and Freeport in St James.

CMI will also be rolling out a national marine cadet corps, which will also be at Kingston High.

English teacher Jaipaul Powell shared, "Kingston High School is now achieving its vision, developing the lives of our students and making them positive contributors to our society."

High hopes for troubled teens

Caribbean Maritime Institute joins forces with Kingston High School to save at-risk youngsters